U.S. bishops on new federal rule: Employers should not be forced to facilitate abortions

Bishop Rhoades Bishop Kevin C. Rhoades of Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, was tabbed as the next chair of the Committee for Religious Liberty on Nov. 16, 2022, in Baltimore. | Credit: Shannon Mullen/CNA

The U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) on Friday criticized a new rule from the Biden administration that will force employers to offer leave for employees seeking abortion. 

The Biden administration’s Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) this week issued a change to federal regulations regarding pregnant workers’ fairness, one that mandates employers make “reasonable accommodations,” including granting leave, for workers to obtain abortions.

The new rule, which is set to take effect 60 days from its publication on Friday, is part of the commission’s efforts to implement the Pregnant Workers Fairness Act (PWFA), according to a final EEOC rule change announcement.

Responding to the new rule on Friday, Fort Wayne-South Bend, Indiana, Bishop Kevin Rhoades said in a statement that “no employer should be forced to participate in an employee’s decision to end the life of their child.”

“The bipartisan Pregnant Workers Fairness Act, as written, is a pro-life law that protects the security and physical health of pregnant mothers and their preborn children,” Rhoades, the chairman of the USCCB’s Committee for Religious Liberty, said in the statement.

“It is indefensible for the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission to twist the law in a way that violates the consciences of pro-life employers by making them facilitate abortions,” the prelate argued. 

The USCCB had last year submitted comments on the proposed rule in which the bishops, along with the Catholic University of America, argued that the PWFA “does not require the provision of any benefit for purposes of facilitating an abortion.” 

“The intent of the PWFA is to require accommodations for ‘pregnancy,’ ‘childbirth,’ and
‘related medical conditions’ — in other words, to assist pregnant workers and workers giving birth to a child by providing accommodations that would permit them to continue to remain both gainfully employed and healthily pregnant,” the bishops and the school argued in the comments. 

“Abortion is neither pregnancy nor childbirth,” they argued. “And it is not ‘related’ to pregnancy or childbirth as those terms are used in the PWFA because it intentionally ends pregnancy and prevents childbirth.”

The USCCB had previously supported the PWFA when it was being considered by Congress, despite some concerns at the time that the bill could be used to force employers to pay for abortion expenses.

The new rule applies to all public and private employers with 15 or more workers and is contingent on the accommodations not presenting an “undue hardship on the operation of the business of the covered entity,” the government says.

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